Lam­pang

A small town of only 58,000 peo­ple, Lam­pang’s al­lure is clearly its sim­plic­ity of life and smil­ing res­i­dents. While all may ap­pear serene and un­event­ful on the sur­face, one is quick to learn that many great gems of in­dus­try ex­ist be­neath the town’s unassu

Escape! Malaysia - - Cover Story -

LEG­END OF LAM­PANG & WAT PRAKAEWDONTAO

The leg­end of Lam­pang plays a sig­nif­i­cant role in the mul­ti­fac­eted tale of the Emer­ald Bud­dha, which is con­sid­ered to be the na­tional trea­sure of Thai­land. As there are many tales that in­volve this leg­endary pal­la­dium, the Emer­ald Bud­dha in ques­tion refers specif­i­cally to the one lo­cated in Wat Phra That Lam­pang Luang. The leg­end be­gins with a young woman by the name of Chao Mae Suchada, who grew an un­usu­ally large melon dur­ing a time of famine. Due to her kind na­ture and char­i­ta­ble spirit, the young lady de­cided to share the melon with an ab­bot from the nearby monastery. How­ever the gods dur­ing the time had big­ger plans as the melon was willed to be shaped into a Bud­dha im­age through the in­ter­ven­tion of In­dra, a noted de­ity in both Bud­dhist and Hindu mythol­ogy. While re­la­tion­ships be­tween Mae Suchada and the ab­bot re­mained pure of heart, ru­mours started cir­cu­lat­ing that the cou­ple had been sex­u­ally in­volved. This caught the at­ten­tion of the Lanna king then who upon hear­ing the false ac­cu­sa­tions or­dered the bru­tal be­head­ing of Suchada. Upon her death, Suchada cursed the town of Lam­pang stat­ing that an in­di­ca­tion of in­no­cence would be that her blood would float up­wards to­wards the sky which hap­pened the mo­ment the be­head­ing stroke fell and the res­i­dents of the town cried out in hor­ror over their ig­no­rance. So deep was the in­flu­ence of this myth on the town that many have at­trib­uted the fail­ure of the town to de­velop some of its in­dus­tries to this myth­i­cal tale. For those who wish to ob­tain a closer look at the story, the fa­mous tale is well de­picted by stat­ues built in Wat Phra Kaew Don­tao which shares ad­ja­cent grounds with an­other tem­ple called Wat Suchadaram. The graven im­age that was crafted by the ab­bot and In­dra is now housed in Wat Phra That Lam­pang Luang, one of the most highly revered tem­ples in Thai­land.

WAT PHRA THAT LAM­PANG LUANG

Pos­si­bly one of the old­est and most in­tact tem­ples of Thai­land, the Wat Phra That Lam­pang Luang is the crown jewel of tem­ples in Lam­pang

Old and worn may de­scribe the set­ting one feels when en­ter­ing, but the sto­ries that lie be­hind the Wat Phra That Lam­pang Luang cer­tainly give rea­son for its tired-look­ing ex­te­rior.

Pos­si­bly one of the old­est and most in­tact tem­ples of Thai­land, the Wat Phra That Lam­pang Luang is the crown jewel of tem­ples in Lam­pang as it houses many relics for Bud­dhist devo­tees and plays a sig­nif­i­cant role in the his­tory of Lam­pang.

En­ter­ing the tem­ple, one would see that much of the ar­chi­tec­ture within the tem­ple re­mains largely un­touched and still re­mains filled with sand. The tem­ple is also fre­quently vis­ited by pi­geons which have since grown ac­cus­tomed to the pres­ence of peo­ple who have come to pray. Its main prayer hall (vi­harn luang) is sit­u­ated right af­ter the main en­trance and is open on all sides. Within the hall sits a mas­sive Bud­dha statue called the “Phra Chao Lang Thong” en­closed within a shim­mer­ing pagoda.

An­other sight to be­hold is the enor­mous 45m tall chendi lo­cated be­hind the vi­harn which is ru­moured to be the old­est struc­ture in the tem­ple. For Bud­dhist devo­tees, the huge chendi is said to house the hair relic of Lord Bud­dha which was do­nated some 2,500 years ago.

On the rail­ings of the chendi, one may also find sev­eral bul­let holes which were said to be cre­ated by leg­endary folk hero Nan Thipchang, an an­ces­tor of the house of Chao Chet Ton which ruled Lanna as a Si­amese vas­sal dur­ing the Thon­buri eras.

A cu­ri­ous-look­ing struc­ture sit­u­ated some­where in the tem­ple grounds bears no­tice as a prom­i­nent sign out­side states ex­plic­itly that women are not al­lowed to en­ter. The small tower-like struc­ture is called the Ho Phra Phut­ta­bat, said to house the foot­print of Lord Bud­dha and is only open to the public on im­por­tant fes­ti­val dates. A grey statue of the foot­print is also avail­able in the vi­harn luang and can be eas­ily iden­ti­fied by the coins that have been do­nated onto it.

A small chapel called the Wi­harn Phra Phut is lo­cated to left of the main prayer hall and is per­haps the most beautiful struc­ture in the court­yard. From its ex­te­rior one can see the orig­i­nal teak wood pil­lars and the beau­ti­fully carved wooden façade com­ple­mented by colour­ful glass shards.

Ex­it­ing the court yard, you will find your­self in a huge bodhi tree gar­den with the trees sup­ported by wooden stilts. The bodhi tree is revered in the Bud­dhist re­li­gion pri­mar­ily be­cause the tree was where Prince Sid­dartha Gau­tama or Lord Bud­dha first achieved en­light­en­ment. Ac­cord­ing to an­cient Bud­dhist texts, the Bud­dha meditated un­der the tree with­out mov­ing from his seat for seven days.

DHANABADEE CE­RAMIC MU­SEUM

En­ter any an­cient cof­fee shop which serves won­ton noo­dles and other de­light­ful Chi­nese del­i­ca­cies and you would be greeted with the sight of chicken bowls. While some at­tribute the found­ing of the bowls to an­cient China, some swear that they were in fact from Thai­land.

Putting all ar­gu­ments to rest, this her­itage prod­uct ini­tially orig­i­nated from Guang­dong, China and found a new place to call home cour­tesy of founder Chin Sim Yu (Mr. E) who forged the ce­ramic in­dus­try of Lam­pang back in the 1950s.

To com­mem­o­rate his works, the Dhanabadee Ce­ramic Mu­seum was set up and within it one can find the im­mor­talised bust of Mr. E. Among the first de­vel­op­ments of the ce­ramic in­dus­try in Lam­pang was the set­ting up of Dhan­ababesakul Crock­ery by Mr. E and his part­ners in 1965. This hap­pened fol­low­ing the dis­cov­ery of kaoli­n­ite de­posits nearby, which was vi­tal to the pro­duc­tion of the chicken bowls. The ce­ramic-mak­ing in­dus­try sub­se­quently re­ceived a sig­nif­i­cant boost from the gov­ern­ment of Thai­land fol­low­ing the ban of chicken bowls from China in 1957 by Field Mar­shal P. Pibul­songkram.

Till this day, the pro­duc­tion of chicken bowls is still a very man­ual process with work­ers fas­tid­i­ously hand-paint­ing each bowl, an ex­tremely time-con­sum­ing process to pre­serve the ut­most au­then­tic­ity of each piece. Within the mu­seum is also the old­est in­su­lated ther­mal cham­ber in the Lam­pang Province called the “Dragon Kiln”. The kiln would gen­er­ally be fired up to sear­ing tem­per­a­tures of 1,260 de­grees Cel­cius in or­der to form a durable chicken bowl. It is one of the na­tional ar­chae­o­log­i­cal items of Thai­land and took about 1 year to build. A mag­nif­i­cent feat dur­ing that time, the kiln could house up to 8,000 chicken bowls in a sin­gle fir­ing.

Among the sights in the mu­seum that should not be missed is the small­est chicken bowl in the world, even smaller than a Thai coin, which can be viewed though a glass en­clo­sure while tour­ing the mu­seum. An­other record which was achieved by the mu­seum is the world’s thinnest chicken bowl which mea­sures only 900 mi­crome­tres. To put things into per­spec­tive, that’s the length of two dust mites.

The Dhanabadee Ce­ramic Mu­seum was de­vel­oped by Panasin Dhanabadee, the sec­ond son of Mr. E in an at­tempt to pre­serve the liv­ing and breath­ing arts of ce­ram­ic­mak­ing. Vis­i­tors may also be able to try their hands at paint­ing and de­vel­op­ing ce­ramic arts of their own for a small fee. A ce­ramic shop is also avail­able nearby for those who would like to pur­chase high qual­ity ce­ramic sou­venirs (www.dhanabadee.com).

The old­est in­su­lated ther­mal cham­ber in Lam­pang Province called the “Dragon Kiln” could house up to 8,000 chicken bowls in a sin­gle fir­ing

ABOVE Stat­ues de­pict­ing the leg­endary tale of Chao Mae Suchada, her wa­ter­melon and the ab­bot

RIGHT Ex­pla­na­tions re­gard­ing the Emer­ald Bud­dha statue and the story of Chao Mae Suchada

ABOVE Vi­harn Phrat But

LEFT En­trance to the Wat Phra That Lam­pang Lua

Im­mor­talised bust of Mr Chin Simyu, also af­fec­tion­ately known as Mr. E

CLOCK­WISE FROM TOP LEFT World’s thinnest chicken bowl which mea­sures only 900 mi­cron

The sig­na­ture chicken bowls of Dhanabadee Group

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